This week’s issue which is calling some premium-grade nonsense to fly forth from the mouths of feminists is the topic of banning face coverings, specifically the niqab. It is something which appeals to politicians, satisfying both their desire for racist policy and managing to get a bonus bit of giving themselves further reason to mass arrest protesters as a shitty little cherry on top. As always, there are hordes of feminists who are perfectly happy to deal with this as it manages to sate their appetite for controlling other women.
I don’t think I need to go into why getting the state to dictate what women may and may not wear is hardly a feminist position, and is simply a manifestation of a white saviour complex. Go and look at what Muslim feminists are saying about this; this is not my argument to make.
Among certain strains of feminism, we see a lot of attempts at controlling what other women do, wear and exist as.
We see it in Nadine Dorries, who calls herself a feminist while simultaneously craning her neck for the best viewing angle of our uteruses. She literally wants to control our reproductive freedom, and believes this stance to be a feminist stance.
We see it in the TERfs, the bigoted feminists who bully and harass trans women for existing, who spread lies and misinformation, who exclude and who try to deny access to treatment. They call themselves feminists, yet they are trying to control women’s bodies, to set themselves up as gatekeepers to womanhood through establishing a firm grasp on what a woman must be like.
We see it in a lot of high-profile campaigns calling for bans on this or that manifestation of sex work. Behind all of this is a desire to control what work is acceptable for women to do. We see it in the entire prohibitionist angle towards sex workers.
Am I saying these people are not feminists? No.
They are feminists. They are simply feminists who will ultimately do more harm than good.
See here’s the thing. It’s a little bit Captain Obvious to suggest that patriarchy places controls on women’s bodies and women’s behaviour. We know that this is terrible and bad and we rightly kick up a fuss about it. And yet to many women, the control imposed by certain strains of feminism is just as bad as these manifestations of patriarchal dominance. It is no different, aside from the perpetrators. And this is why we see so many marginalised women turning away from feminism: feminism just appears as rebranded patriarchy, rebranded control and coercion.
The feminists who want to control other women will defend their stance by saying that the women they are attempting to control need rescuing somehow, that this control is salvation. You will note that they are never trying to save themselves, only others who are somehow letting the side down by letting themselves be oppressed.
And yet this defence is much the same as the patronisingly sexist attitudes we face from men. We don’t know what’s good for us. We need someone to sort it out for us, someone who knows best. We are literally incapable of knowing what it is we need.
We reject it from men, and we must also reject these impositions of control from women.
If we want to help marginalised women to be liberated, our task is not to lead or to legislate, but to listen. We need to ask what help is required, rather than barging in like a carceral Leeroy Jenkins and making everything worse. It is support, not control, that will lead to freedom.